College : : Story
Thursday, March 14, 2019

Weekend Preview: Week 5

Patrick Ebert         Mike Rooney        
Photo: Evan McKendry (Richard Lewis/Miami Athletics)

College Top 25 | Player/Pitcher of the Week | College Player Database

After ACC play got underway last weekend, this week marks a more widespread beginning to conference action, particularly in three more Power 5 leagues: the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12. As a result, there are more meaningful, impactful series being played from one coast to the other – which of course will continue between now and the end of the year – as we try to get a better read on teams only five weeks into the regular season.

The biggest weekend series takes place out west as UCLA's challenging early-season schedule continues as they host No. 1 Oregon State to Los Angeles. Both teams have one of the nation's top pitching units, although both lineups also have no problem scoring runs. UCLA's Ryan Garcia continued to work towards more regular weekend starting work with a two-inning stint to open the Bruins midweek game, a 2-0 win, against Long Beach State while we're awaiting word on the status of Oregon State ace Kevin Abel, whose turn in the rotation was skipped last weekend

Take your pick from just above any SEC matchup, but the marquee ones to watch has No. 2 Vanderbilt traveling to College Station to take on No. 18 Texas A&M and No. 5 Mississippi State playing No. 6 Florida in Gainesville. Mike Rooney takes a quick look at all seven SEC opening series below.

Raleigh/Durham and the surrounding areas will be especially busy in ACC action as there are three impact series that will be difficult to choose between: Miami at No. 10 North Carolina, No. 12 Florida State at No. 17 NC State and No. 8 Louisville at Duke. We dive a little deeper into these three series below.

Last but certainly not least you have a huge series in Austin kicking off Big 12 play as No. 9 Texas Tech hosts No. 13 Texas. The Red Raiders appeared to get back on track, particularly offensively, going 5-0 last week after an 0-2 showing at the Frisco Classic while Texas hopes to do the same this week after losing three of four at Stanford.
 
Stay tuned to Perfect Game this weekend as Jheremy Brown will be on hand for Kansas at St. John's in New York and Steve Fiorindo will report from the UCLA/Oregon State series in Los Angeles.


Top 25 in Action

Rk. Team Opponent Location
1 Oregon State at No. 3 UCLA Los Angeles, CA
2 Vanderbilt at No. 18 Texas A&M College Station, TX
3 UCLA home vs. No. 3 Oregon State Los Angeles, CA
4 Stanford no games scheduled NA
5 Mississippi State at No. 6 Florida Gainesville, FL
6 Florida home vs. No. 5 Mississippi State Gainesville, FL
7 Ole Miss home vs. Alabama Oxford, MS
8 Louisville at Duke Durham, NC
9 Texas Tech at No. 13 Texas Austin, TX
10 North Carolina home vs. Miami Chapel Hill, NC
11 Arkansas home vs. Missouri Fayetteville, AR
12 Florida State at No. 17 NC State Raleigh, NC
13 Texas home vs. No. 9 Texas Tech Austin, TX
14 Louisiana State home vs. Kentucky Baton Rouge, LA
15 Auburn home vs. Tennessee Auburn, AL
16 East Carolina at Maryland College Park, MD
17 NC State home vs. No. 12 Florida State Raleigh, NC
18 Texas A&M home vs. No. 2 Vanderbilt College Station, TX
19 Coastal Carolina at Louisiana-Monroe Monroe, LA
20 Texas Christian home vs. Eastern Michigan Fort Worth, TX
21 Georgia at South Carolina Columbia, SC
22 Arizona State home vs. Washington State Tempe, AZ
23 UC Irvine at Utah Valley Orem, UT
24 Clemson home vs. Notre Dame Clemson, SC
25 Connecticut vs. Michigan State Greenville, SC


March Madness

Six of the ACC’s best will be converging in the Raleigh/Durham, Chapel Hill, N.C., area this weekend for what should be three hyper-competitive series. Miami will be at No. 10 North Carolina, No. 8 Louisville will be at Duke and No. 17 NC State hosts No. 12 Florida State. Miami, while currently unranked, is making some very loud noise to be considered for the Top 25 while Duke isn’t too far behind.

Starting with the highest ranked team, Louisville has been as strong as always on both sides of the ball and it all starts with their staff ace Reid Detmers. Detmers has already claimed ACC Pitcher of the Week honors twice this season and he’s been part of three straight shutouts after fanning 13 Boston College hitters most recently in 7 2/3 innings. He now has 41 strikeouts (and only five walks) in 27 2/3 innings this year, missing bats at an incredible rate, with a 0.33 ERA, which is eighth-best in the nation. Saturday starter, another lefthander in Nick Bennett, is also 3-0 on the year while Bryan Hoeing has performed admirably in the Sunday spot for a team that has a cumulative 2.39 ERA.

Duke is built in a similar fashion, with a good, not great offense supporting a dynamic pitching staff. Graeme Stinson is one of the top draft prospects available this June and the big lefthander also has a knack for missing bats, although not quite at the same pace (23-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 2/3 innings) of Detmers. The Duke coaching staff has been a little more cautious with all of their starters, as they have yet to have an arm reach 20 innings. However, Stinson is one of six hurlers that have already reached 20 strikeouts, with three more in the teens, pointing to a high-octane staff that knows how to miss bats.

All three games likely will be closely contested given the amount of arm talent each teams has, which always plays favor to the home team. However, Louisville appears to be gaining momentum having won 12 of their last 14 games, which includes a midweek sweep of Ole Miss.

North Carolina will have no easy task trying to rebound from last weekend’s sweep at the hands of Clemson with 14-3 Miami coming to town. At least the Tar Heels will be playing at home this week and they did bounce back with a pair of midweek wins over Gardner-Webb and UNCW. The weekend trio of Gianluca Dalatri, Tyler Baum (outside of his start last weekend) and Austin Bergner has been strong so far this year, the bullpen is deep and the lineup is dangerous one through nine. That’s the nutshell version of why they’re ranked in the top 10.

Despite losing their series at Florida a couple of weeks ago, Miami has looked equally strong so far this year. Their weekend trio of Evan McKendry, Chris McMahon and Brian Van Belle can match up with any other unit in the nation, and freshman Slade Cecconi has been dynamite during midweek games while Greg Valiez has emerged as a versatile bullpen ace. Freddy Zamora, Adrian Del Castillo and Alex Toral have been doing most of the damage in the middle of the Hurricanes’ lineup for a team that is batting .311 with 23 home runs already on the season.

For however unlikely it seems that UNC could lose two consecutive weekend series to open ACC play, they’re going to have to regroup quickly to avoid just that against what looks to be a very dangerous Miami team in Gino DiMare’s first year at the helm.

Scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem in Raleigh with the Seminoles taking on the Wolfpack this weekend. FSU has some dangerous hitters spread throughout their lineup, and while it’s anchored by slugging third baseman Drew Mendoza, it’s been the production of three freshmen – Elijah Cabell, Robby Martina and Nander De Sedas – that has drawn the most attention. Mix in some big hits off the bats of J.C. Flowers and Mike Salvatore and you have one of the most well-rounded offenses in the ACC.

And we say “one of” due to the presence of NC State, who boast arguably the most feared 2-3-4 hitters in the conference with shortstop Will Wilson, first baseman Evan Edwards and catcher Patrick Bailey. For as good as the offense is the pitching has been the bigger pleasant surprise in the team’s perfect 17-0 start to the season. Friday starter Jason Parker is 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts. Canaan Silver is 1-0, 3.18 and Reid Johnston has taken the third weekend role recently with similar results (2-0, 1.35). Add in a very deep bullpen headlined by hard-throwing closer Dalton Feeney and you have yet another deep, well-balanced staff.

It would seem unlikely that NC State’s undefeated season lasts past this weekend, but they could be trading places with Florida State in the rankings come Monday.

– Patrick Ebert


Marquee Matchups

Early returns in 2019 say that the two power leagues in college baseball are the Pac-12 and the SEC. And both leagues offer monster series this weekend in the conference kickoff. Here’s a quick look at some of the major themes at play.

Oregon State at UCLA
It’s a battle of Top 3 teams. More importantly, this is a showdown between two teams on the short list of national title favorites.

Coming into the season, Oregon State was known as a team with elite pitching. But where would the offensive production come from outside of Adley Rutschman and Tyler Malone?

UCLA entered 2019 with arguably the nation’s most dynamic offense. But could John Savage piece together a pitching staff that would be good enough to go deep in June?

The nonconference results for both clubs have been strong. Yet each club’s question marks resurface this weekend as this matchup poses a next level test.

This matchup will be fun for several reasons. First, we have strength (Beaver pitching) versus strength (UCLA offense). Second, we’ll have both of the aforementioned question marks facing off. It’s time for a temperature check.

Simply the best…

We say it every year: the set up for conference play in the SEC is the very best in all of college baseball. Ten straight weekends. Thirty games. No breaks. Sink or swim.

As if kicking it up a notch is even necessary, the SEC enters league play with 10 teams in the Perfect Game Top 25 and two who are listed as “also considered.” Something has to give. Here’s a quick look at each of the seven series.

Mississippi State at Florida
This is a battle of the best freshman in the conference. JT Ginn has been special from start No. 1. Kendrick Calilao is already one of the most complete hitters in the league. Now they get their first taste of the real deal.

If we were to nitpick, the pitching in the SEC is a little down this year. That said, the trio of Ethan Small, Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich look the part of high draft picks. These are two Omaha-caliber teams going at it.

Tennessee at Auburn
We knew the Vols could pitch but this is out of control. Garrett Stallings has added a curveball and more velocity, Zach Lingenfelter is throwing strikes, Garrett Crochet has become an elite high-leverage reliever,and Andrew Schultz is throwing 100 mph. Most importantly, junior college transfer shortstop Ricky Martinez (Grayson College, Texas) has solidified the middle of the field.

Auburn has star power. Tanner Burns is an SEC Pitcher of the Year candidate and the trifecta of Will Holland, Steven Williams and Eduoard Julien are top-of-the-league players. While Davis Daniel has been working back to full health, Southern California lefthander Jack Owen has been dominant in the Saturday role.

Georgia at South Carolina
It is easy to forget that Georgia was a Top 8 seed last year. And this veteran group is quietly off to a 14-2 start. There were justifiable questions about this offense coming into 2019. The Bulldogs’ team batting average sits at .308 headed into SEC play.

South Carolina looked extremely vulnerable headed into this season as there is always a price to pay during a coaching transition. Mark Kingston and his staff have done an outstanding job assembling an older, albeit mostly inexperienced, team that plays with a real edge. Finally healthy, TJ Hopkins has become the star we always thought was in there. The pitching staff is loaded with freshmen and it takes a special rookie to thrive in this league.

Alabama at Ole Miss
Brad Bohannon and his staff are methodically upgrading the roster in Tuscaloosa. Once again, the Crimson Tide have dominated their non-conference slate. But for them to move up the standings, who will move down?

The Rebels offense is dynamic. This group is a little bit of everything: physical, athletic, experienced and deep. Thomas Dillard is an SEC Player of the Year candidate but the pitching staff currently has more questions than answers.

Missouri at Arkansas
As the most weather-challenged school in the league, Mizzou’s slower start (by SEC standards) can be forgiven. The Tigers offer two star players in TJ Sikkema and Kameron Misner. Sikemma matches up with anyone on Friday nights and Misner is tracking to be a first round pick. Can the rest of the roster rise up?

The Razorbacks lost a ton from the team that was one out away from a national championship. The star power remaining is immense: Heston Kjerstad, Casey Martin, Dominic Fletcher and Matt Cronin can each be the best player on the field at any time. Unlike last year, the pitching staff is more settled in the bullpen than in the rotation.

Vanderbilt at Texas A&M
Vandy’s offense may be the nation’s very best. JJ Bleday and Austin Martin are first round picks who are playing like stars, and this lineup has length. On the other hand, the pitching staff offers immense arm talent but still unsettled roles. If the pitching comes together this team has the upside to get to Omaha and make it a long stay.

The Aggies are a very interesting matchup for the Commodores. John Doxakis and Asa Lacy are lefthanders with premium stuff who will be a difficult matchup for Vandy’s critical lefthanded bats. The Texas A&M offense is last in the league in hitting at .261. Will they score enough?

Kentucky at LSU
Kentucky has had more players drafted in the last two seasons than any program in America. That is both good news and bad news as all of those players are now in professional baseball. This is a brand new team that will test its SEC mettle for the first time. That said, lefthander Zack Thompson has first round talent and TJ Collett’s raw power may be the best in the league.

LSU is reeling after being swept at Texas and losing a midweek contest to Northwestern State. Yet this roster has outstanding talent and Paul Mainieri is a master at peaking his Tigers at just the right time. The rotation has been a mess and that will be the key adjustment in SEC play.



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